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Senate Highway Bill Seeks Fiscally Irresponsible Spending Hikes

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Today the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works released their much-anticipated draft bill on federal highway funding, with markup scheduled for Tuesday. CEI transportation policy expert Marc Scribner expressed disappointment in the bill’s missed opportunities to empower state decision-making and its fiscally irresponsible spending hikes.

Statement by Marc Scribner, CEI senior fellow:

“America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 largely represents a continuation of the surface transportation status quo that is becoming less sustainable with each passing year. The bill fails to meaningfully increase state flexibility and self-sufficiency, with restrictions on Interstate tolling largely left in place.

“Similarly, many who were hoping for substantial support for state pilots to test alternatives to ailing fuel taxes will be disappointed. While beyond the jurisdiction of the Environment and Public Works Committee, the substantial increase in spending will mean either massive increases in fuel tax rates or general revenue bailouts to the Highway Trust Fund. Given that Congress has already bailed out the Trust Fund to the tune of $140 billion over the last decade, this does not bode well for taxpayers or road users.

“With Senate authorizers making their position clear, we strongly urge their counterparts on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to take a different approach that better reflects the difficulties our legacy highway policy is facing, rather than merely kicking the can down the road.”

Scribner argues that a massive increase in federal highway spending over current levels will make it even more difficult to find revenue. That will mean fuel tax hikes and/or more taxpayer bailouts of the Highway Trust Fund.

Related report: Transforming Surface Transportation Reauthorization